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'They came to New Zealand and they ballsed it up'
A new book attempts to answer one question: did Oasis play New Zealand's worst concert of all time?
When Oasis arrived in Wellington in 1998, things were already as bad as they possibly could be for the world’s biggest rock band.
Two previous tours in New Zealand had been cancelled.
Their most recent album Be Here Now was widely derided.
Feisty front man Liam Gallagher had sparked global headlines for a “rowdy, brawl-filled spectacle” on a Cathay Pacific flight to Australia, earning the singer a lifetime ban.
Then he was arrested in Brisbane for allegedly head-butting a fan.
Reviews for the band’s show at Auckland’s Carter Holt Pavilion the previous night were mixed. Some said it was too loud. Others said the venue sucked and the band lacked chemistry.
“Overwrought, underfed,” quipped the Herald.
When Liam Gallagher arrived at Wellington’s Queens Wharf Events Centre on March 10, he had clearly been trying to escape his problems.
“He fell out of the van,” says Karamdeep Sahota. “He was a bit of a sweaty mess.”
Simmering tensions between Liam and his brother Noel were already providing plenty of fodder for the constant churn of tabloid headlines back home.
As fans began arriving at the venue, they knew they were in for a spectacle – one that could go either way.
Then came the tipping point.
Moments before Oasis were due on stage, someone handed Liam a kazoo – and the front man decided to make full use of it.
“The very first song is basically Liam missing some of the words because he's blaring out that kazoo,” says Sahota.
“Noel would have absolutely lost it.”
It would soon get worse – way worse.
“They get to ‘D’ You Know What I Mean?’ and … Liam just walks away from the microphone,” says Sahota.
“There’s no one singing. You can hear a guitar being thrown down. The fans start boo-ing, saying, ‘This is shit’.”
What happened next has become the topic of much speculation.
Some say the Gallagher brothers retreated backstage for a proper forehead-to-forehead screaming match.
Others say they came to blows.
Whatever happened, that band, that tour, that night and that show has become the stuff of New Zealand concert folklore.
Stuff ranked it No. 1 in a list of New Zealand’s worst ever concerts – even topping the time Lou Reed didn’t make it on stage because he was busy shooting up heroin.
Is it true?
‘Fans got the full Oasis package’
Sahota’s spent the past two years trying to get to the bottom of it.
He’s turned his research into a book that examines that night and the circumstances surrounding Oasis’ notorious tour down under.
Out now, Get on the Rollercoaster is a comprehensive, pain-stakingly researched and exhaustive analysis of what really happened when Oasis came to New Zealand for their one and only visit.
To get to the truth, Sahota interviewed more than 100 people, including fans, musicians, concert-goers, crew, promoters and journalists.
He took time off his archivist job to spend weeks digging through collections at the National Library.
There, he found something else: proof of a thriving 90s Aotearoa music media scene.
“I just ploughed through a tonne of publications. Newspapers, magazines, anything that may have mentioned them in the 90s,” says Sahota. “There were so many. I went through all the Rip It Ups, the Real Grooves, Pavements, Music Press magazines.”
Clippings are republished throughout his book and provide a fascinating time capsule of a time when local music journalism flourished. I remember reading many of those magazines as a Whanganui teen. It’s what led me here, doing this.
I’m going to be honest: seeing nearly 10 different reviews of Oasis’ Auckland concert brought a tear to my eye. If the band ever reforms and returns, they’d be lucky to get two or three these days.
As I’ve reported, no full-time music critics are employed by any major publications any more.
Sahota pieces all of those reviews together to paint a picture of a band in disarray, led entirely by the dysfunctional relationship between Noel and Liam. They had one last row on stage in France in 2009 and have never played as Oasis again.
Is the drama for real, or just rock n roll showmanship?
“There are too many incidents over the years,” says Sahota. “It'd be great if they got on. I always feel so sorry for the family because of the the wider impact … Living in the limelight, it's really hard to have that private, brotherly relationship.”
Sahota wasn’t at that Wellington show, but he did get to see Oasis perform three separate times. All of them sound like they were better than that one he’s written about, the gig that’s become infamous amongst Oasis diehards.
So Sahota is in a better position than anyone to answer the question: did Oasis really deliver New Zealand’s worst ever concert?
Yes, he agrees that by the time they made it to Aotearoa, Oasis were a hot mess.
“They came to New Zealand and they ballsed it up,” he says.
But is it the worst concert the country has ever seen?
Sahota doesn’t think that’s true. In fact, he believes fans got a front row seat for the greatest rock n show possible.
“When they were great, they were amazing. And then it went downhill. And they had a fight. And they did all that in an hour-and-a-half,” he says.
“So fans got the Oasis full package.”
The week ahead …
Was The Weeknd so surprised at selling out two Eden Park shows that he needed a little lie down? The R&B star has, somewhat strangely, postponed his two December shows until next year due to “unforeseen circumstances”. Whatever the real reason is, it’s got nothing to do with a second season of The Idol.
I have had the unfortunate experience of attending two Macklemore shows in a professional capacity. Both were among the worst concerts I’ve seen. The “rapper” returns for appearances at TSB Bank Arena on March 8 and Spark Arena on March 9. Tickets are on sale on Wednesday: consider yourself warned.
I don’t think anyone saw this coming: comedy godfather Jerry Seinfeld will play two shows here next year. He’s at Spark Arena on June 24 and Wolfbrook Arena on June 26. Pre-sales begin on Thursday; tickets go on general release on Friday.
Two things can be true at once. For proof, I give you Jared Leto. He’s one of my favourite actors (WeCrashed is incredible TV) yet he’s one of my least favourite musicians. And so we have 30 Seconds to Mars, a group that is somehow still touring widely and will be here for a Spark Arena show on September 19. Pre-sales begin today; the general release happens on Friday.
Please find some time this week to read broadcaster and bonafide musical aficionado John Campbell’s lovely ode to the magical abilities of sound (totally agree with you, JC, on your hip-hop stance; it’s easily my most listened to genre too). After that you can enjoy his incredibly curated playlist, JC Tryna Be Alive.
I don’t mean to end on a bummer but it really doesn’t seem like we’re getting Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour down under. We will, however, be getting the movie of that tour, which we’ll just have to make do with, I guess. Thankfully, the trailer proves it’s going to be very, very good…
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